Robert filmed and interviewed the descendants of three African American WW II heroes. All three WWII heroes died on the same calendar day.
Ground Breaking Contributions
Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr. is one of three "unsung" World War II (WWII) heroes from Memphis, Tennessee, who made groundbreaking contributions to American History. His heroic exploits as one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen in WWII and his responsibilities as the first African-American air traffic controller in Memphis have mainly gone "unsung." The calendar date of October 15 links Lt. Col. Weathers with two other WWII heroes from Memphis.
The calendar date of October 15 links Lt. Col. Weathers to Ernest C. Withers, Sr., and PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr., two other WWII heroes from Memphis.
Three Linked World War II Heroes
- All died on October 15
- All served in WWII
- All made outstanding contributions to the United States
The year of death differs for each man:
- Rodgers died in 1993
- Withers died in 2007
- Weathers died in 2011
Truth Be Told
According to Luke J. Weathers III, "...truth be told, the United States really would not have won WWII if it had not been for The Tuskegee Airmen who escorted the bombers on their assigned missions."
The Tuskegee Airmen
The Best Record
- The Tuskegee Airmen reportedly hold the best record of air support and air battles in US military history.
- The Tuskegee Airmen never lost a single bomber under their protection.
Triumphful Air Battles
During World War II, Tuskegee Airmen Luke J. Weathers, Jr.:
- Reported to escort a wounded bomber to England
- Flew beneath the bomber to disguise his presence from enemy attack
- Engaged enemy contact with eight German plans that attacked the bomber
- Flew into the German planes head on
- Immediately took down one of the planes
- Avoided the other seven German aircraft that came after him
- He ended up on the tail of one of the enemy planes that were behind him first
- Sent a second German aircraft tumbling to the ground
..truth be told, the United States really would not have won WWII if it had not been for The Tuskegee Airmen who escorted the bombers on their assigned missions.
— Luke J. Weathers, III
Red Tail Planes
Honor and Respect
The Tuskegee Airmen served their country with honor and respect.
Although undeniably the most outstanding pilots and crew efforts in military history, they could not march in the victory parade held in New York, celebrating the end of WWII.
Instead, authorities secretly transported them to a remote train terminal for transport.
Not Allowed to Participate
- Shot down seven enemy German airplanes on escort missions over Greece and Italy
- Earned the Distinguished Flying Cross medal
The Distinguished Flying Cross
A United States Armed Forces member earns the Distinguished Flying Cross by showing heroism and extraordinary achievement in an aerial flight.
Promoted to Captain
By the time his WWII tour ended, Luke J. Weathers, Jr. had received the rank of captain. He then returned to his alma mater, Tuskegee University, to share his experience as an instructor.
Were The Tuskegee Airmen Properly Recognized?
June 25, 1945, became Luke J. Weathers Day in Memphis. An African American had never received such an honor in the city.
A parade headed down Beale Street and Main and ended in Handy Park. Following speeches by dignitaries, Captain Weathers received an honor never received by an African American in Memphis, the key to the city.
A dance followed with music provided by the Navy Air Station Band.
Family and Friends
During the celebration with family and friends, young Captain Weathers noticed a young woman. The young woman, Laverne, later became his wife. The wedding took place on Wednesday, July 13, 1947. From that union came five children.
Laverne's classmate and childhood friend, Ernest C. Withers (both were graduates of Manassas High School), photographed the wedding. Ernest credited Luke for purchasing his first camera.
Captain Weathers remained a reservist in the military for twenty-three years and earned the rank of Lt. Col.
Luke J. Weathers Day in Memphis
In 1960, after strenuous testing, Weathers accepted employment in the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) as an Air Traffic Controller.
His first duty assignment was in Anchorage, AL. Shortly after, he became transferred to Galena, AL. Later, Weathers moved to Nashville, TN.
Eventually, in 1965 Lt. Col. Luke J.Weathers, Jr. became the first African American Air Traffic Controller in Memphis, TN.
Weathers also held FAA positions in Atlanta, GA, and in 1985, Washington, D.C., where he retired.
Honored in His Hometown
Luke J. Weathers, Jr. was the first African American in Memphis, TN, to:
- Have a day in his honor
- Receive the key to the city
- Be an air traffic controller
In the Words of His Son
Luke J. Weathers III made an excellent tribute to his father when he said, "We will never forget what he has given us, as a father, a hero (and) as a man."
We will never forget what he has given us, as a father, a hero (and) as a man.
— Luke J. Weathers III
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Robert Odell Jr